Off the Clock: No snow? Get your fix at the Ski Museum

If this season’s lack of snow and balmy temperatures has kept you from hitting the slopes, a trip to the New England Ski Museum in Franconia may be just what you’re looking for.

Located next door to the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway off Exit 34B on Route 3, the New England Ski Museum is one of only four ski museums in the country recognized by the United States Ski Association.

The museum opened its doors to the public in 1982, and ever since, visitors have been treated to a growing collection of ski memorabilia and special exhibits that change annually.

“The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve and exhibit images and artifacts from the history of skiing,” said Jeff Leich, executive director of the museum. “The collections we have assembled over the past 30 years are the raw material we use to develop our new annual exhibits on topics as varied as the World War II era 10th Mountain Division and skiing in Tuckerman Ravine.”

“Eastern Inspirations: The Impact of the Northeast on National Skiing” is the special exhibit currently on display in the center of the museum’s Alec Bright Exhibition Hall.

A photo of Edward Blood, longtime University of New Hampshire ski coach and member of the 1932 U.S. Olympic Ski Team, sits among photos of Minot Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol, and Roland Palmedo, investment banker, ski-lift investor and president of the Amateur Ski Club of New York.

The exhibit tells the story of the arrival and evolution of Alpine skiing in the United States and the people and organizations behind its introduction.

Located well within driving distance of transportation hubs like Boston and New York, the mountains of New England provided the first home for Alpine skiing in the United States.

Early ski clubs in the Northeast – including The Appalachian Mountain Club, The Dartmouth Outing Club, the Amateur Ski Club of New York and the Lake Placid Club — all played critical roles in the growth and expansion of the country’s alpine ski industry. Their stories are showcased in this year’s New England Ski Museum display.

The exhibit also shows the role and importance of the introduction of snowmaking technology in the East and the correlation between the westward migration of the sport and the improvements in cross-country transportation.

Permanent displays at the New England Ski Museum include those depicting the contributions of Alec Bright – a force in the creation of Cannon’s Aerial Tramway, the first in the Nation.

The evolution of skis is depicted in a vertical timeline of sorts as wooden slats bearing leather toe-straps hang adjacent to laminated wood racing skis of the 1950s. Early metal and fiberglass skis precede the shaped models of the 1990s.

The skis worn in 1955 by U.S. Ski Team member Ralph Miller when he set the unofficial speed record of 109 miles per hour also are on display, as are the official parka worn by National Ski Patrol founder “Minnie” Dole and the winter uniform of the 10th Mountain Division (also spearheaded by Dole). Both hang in contrast to the brightly colored GS suit worn by World Cup winner and Franconia native Bode Miller when he won the giant slalom and Super G at the 1996 Junior Olympics in Sugarloaf, Maine.

Although 10,000 people visit the facility at the base of Cannon Mountain each year, the New England Ski Museum also has a satellite exhibit at the Bretton Woods Mountain Resort, a short ride north of Cannon.

This year, “Hannes Schneider: Skimeister” is on display at the base lodge there.

The exhibit pays homage to the Austrian ski instructor and founder of the Hannes Schneider Ski School at Mount Cranmore in North Conway.

Credited for “bringing speed to the sport,” Schneider developed and practiced the Arlberg technique of ski instruction in his Austrian homeland before Nazis invaded his country, forcing him to emigrate to the mountains of New Hampshire.

In addition to the historic displays depicting the rise of the nation’s favorite winter pastime, the New England Ski Museum also shows vintage ski films and videos in its Lowell Thomas Jr. Theater.

The museum’s gift shop features posters, books, T-shirts, vintage films and videos and other gifts.

While the fickle New England weather may be limiting slope time this year, the doors to the New England Ski Museum are open 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily from Memorial Day through the end of March.

For more information, visit ski museum.org.

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